This post is something that's also been bouncing around in my mind for a while; it's also a bit of a segue from Greg's comment on my post yesterday. I'll actually start with the the transcript of part of an IM "conversation" with a friend last night; I say "conversation" because this part of it was pretty one-sided (so I just eliminated the "yup"s and "so"s and included my comments).
What you're experiencing right now is, in a way, sort of like the Israelites' experience of the exile.
by that I mean that the exile was a time of feeling distant from God, of wondering where God was and what he was doing (if anything).
It was a distinct time of feeling out of favor with God
and into that speaks Jeremiah 29.
You know the classic Jeremiah 29:11 -- "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope"?
He's not saying that to teens graduating from high school who feel like they have the world in front of them (when a text like that is typically preached)
He's saying that to people whose lives feel like s%$@
who are oppressed on every side
who have been taken out of every blessing they thought God had promised to them
who see no end in sight to the misery and oppression
and who know that God is doing this to them
I think those words - "future," "hope" - have a lot more weight when you recognize the context
Jeremiah 29:11 popped into my mind the other day and I went to sleep thinking about how much more powerful that verse is when you read it in the context of the exile (btw, Eugene Peterson's introduction to Jeremiah is great -- he does a good job of bridging the far and near horizons, though with maybe a bit more emphasis on the near horizon than a WTS person might be comfortable with).
And this is where Greg's comment comes back -- when we're having that "exile experience," how do we live? How do we keep pressing on, even in sometimes agonizingly difficult circumstances? How do we process life when we know that this is not ultimately what God has designed for us (either because we know it's for a season, or just because we're living in a fallen world), but that there might be things that we could do? Jeremiah's letter to the exiles tells us to make the best of what we have, to seek to prosper where God has us, even if it's not really where we want to be.
For the Israelites in Jeremiah's time, it was planting vineyards, having kids, building homes. For me, well, there are a lot of ways that I can be faithful at work, in my church, in my personal life, even while striving to be content with where God has me in each of those areas.